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A mind map connects ideas together visually

Notetaking is the practice of writing pieces of information, often in an informal or unstructured manner, in order to aid memory. One major specific type of notetaking is the practice of writing in shorthand, which can allow large amounts of information to be put on paper very quickly. Notes are frequently written in notebooks, though any available piece of paper can suffice in many circumstances—some people are especially fond of Post-It notes, for instance. Notetaking is an important skill for students, especially at the college level. Many different forms are used to structure information and make it easier to find later. Computers, particularly tablet PCs and personal digital assistants (PDAs) are beginning to see wide use as notetaking devices.

From a psychological point of view note taking is a complex cognitive task requiring an ability to listen and process incoming verbal stimuli while at the same time editing writing an account of what has been said.

Professional Notetakers provide access to information for people who cannot take their own notes, in particular Deaf and hard of hearing people. Manual notetaking requires pen and paper and Electronic Notetaking (or Computer-Assisted Notetaking) requires laptops with special notetaking software. Professional Notetakers most frequently work in colleges and universities but also in workplace meetings, appointments, conferences, and training sessions. They are usually educated to degree level. In the UK they are increasingly expected to have a professional notetaking qualification, such as that offered by the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP).


Cornell Notes

When using the Cornell note-taking system a strip of white space is left to the left side of the notes that are written as they come up. Questions or key words based on the notes are written in the white space after the session has ended. The Cornell method requires no rewriting and yet results in systematic notes.


Charting means that one creates a table with rows and columns. This is a useful method for facts and relationships.


While notes can be written freely, many people structure their writing in an outline. A common system consists of headings that use Roman numerals, letters of the alphabet, and the common Arabic numeral system at different levels. A typical structure would be:

I. First main topic
A. Subtopic
1. Detail
2. Detail
B. Subtopic
II. Second main topic
A. Subtopic

However, this sort of structure has limitations since it is difficult to go back and insert more information. It is possible to simply leave large spaces in between, but another common alternative is a mind map. (See Category:Outliners for more about application software that supports outlining)


Here, ideas are written with lines connecting them together in a tree-like structure. Mind Maps are commonly drawn this way, but with a central point, many colors, little graphics and anything that helps to visualize the information easier. The Mind Map starts with a purpose or goal and then identifies all the ideas that contribute to the goal. It is also used for planning and writing essays.

Sentence method

Every new thought is written as a new line. Speed is the most desirable attribute of this method because not much thought about formatting is needed to form the layout and create enough space for more notes. Also, you must number each new thought.


SQ3R is a method for taking notes from written material, though it might be better classed as method of reading and gaining understanding. Material is skimmed to produce a list of headings, that are then converted into questions. These questions are then considered whilst the text is read to provide motivation for what is being covered. Notes are written under sections headed by the questions as each of the material's sections is read. One then makes a summary from memory, and reviews the notes.

Problems that arise from notetaking

Unfortunately, it is often the case that while students are busy taking notes, they do not pay sufficient attention to what the professor is actually saying or explaining. This fact justifies the use of handouts and conspects printed out in advance and given out to each student. The flip side of this is that notetaking makes learning "active learning" as opposed to "passive learning." When students have nothing to do but listen to the lecture, it is difficult for them to stay alert and attentive all of the time.

Possible solutions

An easy solution to the problem is to figure out if you are an auditory learner. If you are, then it's probably better to listen and review with your textbook. If you are a visual learner, then the best would probably be a combination of listening and notetaking. If you learn by writing then you should focus more on notetaking.

Notetaking from reading

There are three main ways to take notes from written material.

The first is direct quotation, in which the notetaker copies a passage verbatim from the original text. Normally the copied passage should be enclosed in quotation marks.

The second method is paraphrasing. This involves a rephrasing of the information in the reader's own words, indicating that he or she has read and comprehended the information enough to restate it.

The third method is summarizing. Summarizing involves not just rephrasing the information but condensing it to the essential meaning.

Electronic notetaking methods

The growing ubiquity of laptops in universities and colleges has led to a rise in electronic notetaking. Many students write their notes in Microsoft Word or other word-processors. Online word-processors applications such as Google Docs, mynoteIT and Noter are receiving growing attention by students who can forward notes using email or otherwise make use of collaborative features inherent in these so-called "Web 2.0" technologies.

Online note-taking has brought on a host of issues for professors who must balance educational freedom with copyright and propriety concerns regarding course content.

With the increase of electronic notetaking specific notetaking software has been developed. Such software includes Stickies, Tex-Edit Plus, Microsoft OneNote, EverNote, SQLNotes, GoBinder, BasKet, Tomboy and various other programs that specifically focus on notetaking and organization of notes.

See also

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